ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday decided to hold Village and Neighbourhood Council and Tehsil Council elections in the first phase in17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on December 19 and on January 16 next year in the remaining districts of the province.
To this effect, the commission met here at its secretariat and the meeting was presided over by Sikandar Sultan Raja, chief election commissioner. The forum was briefed that in a meeting of the commission held on October 14, 2021, the provincial government representatives had taken the position that the provincial government wants that the first phase of polls of Village Councils and Neighbourhood might be conducted in December 2021.
The last ECP meeting was attended by Provincial Minister for Food Atif Khan, Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz, the advocate general and the secretary Local Government, and they had maintained that the remaining Village Council/Neighbourhood Council elections will be held in May 2022 and consultations for Tehsil Council elections will be held later.
To this, the ECP agreed in its Thursday meeting that the first phase of the elections would be held in December 2021 but contended that Tehsil Council elections would be held on the same day so that all local governments in the districts could be functional and the ECP would not have to conduct polls twice in the same area.
The ECP said that after the meeting, it would issue an order on the date of the elections as the consultation process has been completed. However, if the provincial government wants to give more feedback, it should do so within seven days.
The commission directed the office concerned to conduct elections of Village and Neighbourhood Councils in the first phase in 17 districts. In the light of the recommendations of the provincial government, the commission will release the schedule for the first phase of elections in the province on December 19, 2021, according to which the Village/Neighbourhood and Tehsil Council elections will be held on the same day.
Similarly, it has been decided to hold elections in the remaining districts on January 16, 2022 so that immediate local governments in the province can be made functional and powers transferred to public representatives.
The meeting was informed that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had requested the ECP in a letter dated October 21, 2021 to hold the elections in KP in the first phase on December 15, 2021 and in the second phase the elections of chairmen of Tehsil Councils should be held on March 15, 2022. During the meeting, the commission was informed that the term of local governments in the province had expired on August 28, 2019. Apart from the publication of official population figures, elections have not yet been held due to the corona pandemic and the deteriorating law and order situation in the province. The ECP emphasized that under Section (4) 219 of the Elections Act, the ECP has to ensure that elections are held within 120 days after the expiration of the term of local governments. In addition, population statistics have been published on May 6, 2021. Therefore, there is no reason not to hold elections in the province.
Meanwhile, the commission rejected a request of Federal Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati for more time and ordered him to appear in person before the commission on November 26.
The case of Swati was heard by a two-member bench comprising ECP Member Nisar Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi. Swati's junior lawyer appeared before the commission and said that the senior lawyer was busy with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
To this, ECP Member Shah Mohammad Jatoi inquired whether he (junior lawyer) has not taken a briefing on the case from the senior lawyer, whereas ECP Member Nisar Durrani maintained that giving power of attorney will not solve the problem.
Hence, the ECP rejected Swati's plea for time and issued him a notice to appear in person on November 26. It may be recalled that Swati had leveled serious allegations against the commission a few weeks back, and alleged that the commission rendered no services for democracy and that such institutions should be set on fire.
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